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Discussion point: What should the UK do about the Skripal case?

The basic facts are given in this Wikipedia page: Poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal, and there is a BBC “What we know so far” piece here. I keep hoping to read somewhere that they are beginning to recover. I keep not doing it.

What should the UK government do? What do you think about the measures it has taken so far?

Here are some opinions from several different points of view to get you started:

What can Theresa May do about Russia over the Salisbury poisoning? – Dominic Waghorn, Sky TV.

After the Skripal attack, talk of war only plays into Vladimir Putin’s hands – Simon Jenkins in the Guardian.

Alex Salmond: Don’t shut down my TV show over spy attack – Andy McLaren, STV News.

59 comments to Discussion point: What should the UK do about the Skripal case?

  • Lee Moore

    The fact is that, unless they start dropping bombs, Russia isn’t very important to the UK, and the UK isn’t very important to Russia.
    The UK has no significant power over Russia, without concerted effort with its allies and neighbours, none of whom have any serious intention of doing anything.
    So diplomatic games is all there is. The nuclear option for diplomatic stuff is to break off diplomatic relations. Putin would probably win that one, as nobody else would break off relations and so La May would be made to look petulant.

    The practical point is to convey the message that attempting to murder people in the UK is not OK and cannot be done with impunity.

    Probably the best option would be to maintain relations but to require Russia to reduce its diplomatic staff to a skeleton crew; and to institute serious Visa requirements so that, in practice, no rich Russians would be able to get into the UK. Which would at least have the merit of inflicting some pain and suffering on Putin’s cronies. Putin would either retaliate in kind (who cares) or himself break off relations (ditto.)

    PS the other point this shines a light on is – for an inteligent man, Simon Jenkins is capable of being really idiotic. War ? Seriously ?

  • Mr Ed

    We could buy more gas off of the lovely Qataris. Oh, hang on.

    We could frack, frack and frack until we can go without Russian gas, and drive the world price down.

    We could ban anyone of the Russian Federation from entering or remaining in the UK.

    We could close our embassy in Moscow, and theirs in London, save some money and use Facetime instead.

    We could scrap unexplained wealth orders as they could be used to take pocket money off of a 5-year old.

    I am half-wondering if Mrs May has tasked the Department of Culture, Media and Sport to issue Chelsea FC with deduction of 15 points in the Premier League.

  • Eric

    The reason the Russians were so brazen is there’s nothing the UK can do of any consequence. In theory, yes, it’s a casus belli, but going to war over something this small would be stupid.

  • RRS

    Begin by carefully determining the (ultimate?)objective(s) (and whether they are or can be ultimate or intermediate) of sets of particular actions.

    In so far as possible, action, when taken should be insidious, without publicity, aimed at known (measured) vulnerabilities of the current governmental structure, including those of the FSB (and of any “vengeance” or “ethics” cliques within the FSB).

    The current regime appears dependent upon the strength of the FSB, which, as a hierarchal structure must have relationship vulnerabilities.
    Begin to learn them if that is not already underway.

    Do not expect immediate results or emphasize public gratifications. But, above all start working – AND do not stop. There appear to be many in Europe who would accept criminal management, similar to that in Russia, for what they perceive as “government” today.

  • 1. Frack the fuck out of the British countryside
    2. At least one person in the FSB needs to have an unfortunate accident
    3. Sell weapons to Ukraine

    Anyone who thinks “there is nothing Britain can do to Russia” clearly has no imagination.

  • I’m with Perry de Havilland (London), but to his point 3 (“Sell weapons to Ukraine”), I would add that Russia is involved in Syria and there is already a report of some of their mercenaries having had an unfortunate experience courtesy of US forces. Why don’t we join in this fun sport? (And if it provides a politically-viable motive for spending to increase the infantry forces we have, I see positive advantages.)

    As well as selling arms to the Ukraine, where ‘disavowed’ Russian forces also operate, might some snipers or other experts operate there. And/or maybe we could help Ukraine harden their computer infrastructure against Russian probing attacks. Reports suggest Estonia could also use help of this kind.

    As Perry says, use a little imagination. We want to attach a price tag to Putin’s behaviour, one that he feels the cost of. If our government only has the nerve (yes, I must with reason say ‘if’), it can annoy Putin and help itself politically in the process.

  • Edward

    What to do? Front up. This is Cold War II: Electric Boogaloo, and the good guys are starting from a much stronger position this time.

    NATO exists, and if they want to go back to the 50s, we can too. Bases in the frontline NATO countries, just like in the old days. Except those aren’t sat on the Rhine; they’re on the Vistula and the Dnieper. Admit Georgia and Ukraine to NATO membership, arm them up, and multinational NATO land, air, and sea bases are there too. Garrison the frontline Baltic States, and make clear Article V applies to all NATO members. All. And if it is invoked, the full wrath of NATO will be unleashed upon the miscreant.

    The Russians and Putin are utter paper tigers. We should treat them as such.

  • bobby b

    Maybe I missed some news, but y’all seem inordinately convinced of Putin’s guilt in this attack. So far it’s a guess based on the identity of the substance used, but it strikes me that it is every bit as likely that this was done by someone else who wanted the Russians to continue being the bad guys (and who had access to state resources).

    Were I investigating, I’d make certain that I looked at people in the USA who might want to keep the current focus on Russia and collusion, and to crowd any upcoming Inspector General reports about intelligence/law enforcement actions or huge charities out of the news. Getting the rest of the civilized world all yelling at Putin would certainly accomplish those things.

    Putin’s taken on a number of battlefronts across the world at the same time. I can’t see him adding another huge one right now all for whatever he gains by killing the Skripals.

  • Matthew McConnagay

    bobby b – I agree – but…

    There are two considerations here: justice and security. Justice dictates that we find and punish whoever is actually responsible; security dictates that we let the world know you can’t get away with this sort of thing. And since the world thinks Russia did it, we have to retaliate against Russia, even if we aren’t sure yet that they’re responsible.

    This may get complicated if it turns out they aren’t, but happily they’ve made things a little easier by taking the piss. With all their nudging and winking it seems they’re happy for people to think they are responsible, so they can’t much complain when we treat them like they are.

    As for sending SAS snipers to Ukraine and so on: have you people lost your fucking minds?

  • mickc

    Yes Perry….why don’t we just give a guarantee to the Ukraine? After all it worked for Poland….oh…err…no it didn’t did it?

    No it actually destroyed the British Empire and ensured the UK became part of the US empire.

    The UK has no vital interest at risk in the Ukraine. Let’s just leave those dogs to fight between themselves..

  • Alisa

    Bobby’s point is good, although it may just as likely be correct than not. Regardless, I’d look at China before anywhere else. None of which is to negate Matthew’s point above: Putin is never one to miss an appendage-waving opportunity.

  • Stephen Houghton

    Perry is right Britain is not without options.

    At the very least 10 members of Putin’s circle should find themselves flopping around on the streets of Moscow wondering how they got injected with puffer fish venom or the like.

    Additionally NATO should forward deploy a Division in each of the Baltic nations and Corps in Poland.

    Additional sets include: Fracking to distroy Putin’s economic position, arming the Ukraine and Georgia, making him lose face in Syria, etc.

  • Patrick Crozier (Twickenham)

    One of the extraordinary aspects of this case – as illustrated by bobby b’s comment – is the extent to which people will cleave to convoluted theories rather than the obvious one in front of their faces. I like to think that this is due the untrustworthiness of our own media. But I could be wrong.

    Also: never underestimate your enemy. Russia might fall like a pack of cards but equally it might not. Be prepared for the latter eventuality.

    On the question of what to do about it the fact that the crime seems to have been committed in Russia makes things difficult. Selling weapons to Ukraine would appear to have the advantage of hitting Putin where it hurts and being relatively inexpensive.

  • Past behaviour is a good guide to present behaviour. Both known fact and statistics (now being re-examined) give excellent reasons to regard Putin as number 1 suspect – and nothing beyond speculation so far to put anyone else in the frame.

    The idea that anyone in the US (of that select number having access to the appropriate Russian-style nerve agent and superb-enough black-ops capacity) might have done this has me rather baffled. On the one hand, anyone who thinks this sure to play out as “Trump will now reveal he’s owned by Putin through his weak response”, instead of “Trump now has the opportunity to make a right mess of our narrative by doing some loudly anti-Russian actions that will be hard to under-report.”, must really, really, really believe in the most literal form of that narrative. And on the other hand, Trump has already shot up one group of disavowed Russians. Does he really need a request from Britain to shoot up another? Is he incapable of generating headlines for it without news from Britain? And which US deep-state intelligence outfit is it that he trusts to do this deed and never tell on him? Hopefully, this indicates why I have grave reservations about any such theory. It seems a very risky thing to do to achieve an unpredictably two-sided upping of the collusion narrative.

    While I am suspicious of China in general, they too have some motivational difficulties. If the idea is to distract the US from its focus on China’s expansion, why not do the deed in the US? Does no anti-Putin Russian ever go there? Is no spy ever exchanged there? (Indeed, did not the specific transfer deal that involved the victim also involve the US?) If the UK sends forces to Syria or similar, does that not let the US support us with the forces they have there while positively relieving them of the need to grow those forces? If UK assets actively manage anti-Russian actions, is not the US freer to focus on China? If China planned war or confrontation with Putin, i.e. distracting itself from the US, then such a black-propaganda operation could make motivational sense, but that’s a different scenario from the ones I’d been considering. Like WWII Japan, China seems to know there is more to the east and south of them than there is in Siberia.

    So, while I hope the UK government continues to find out all it can about this, I see no particularly plausible speculation, let alone a jot of evidence, for taking suspect no. 1 out of the frame.

    (If my scenarios are not those that the commenters who raised these issues imagine, by all means clarify.)

  • bobby: Maybe I missed some news, but y’all seem inordinately convinced of Putin’s guilt in this attack.

    Huh? So if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and acts like a duck, it’s probably a fox false flagging as a duck? Do you know something I don’t?

    Matthew McConnagay: And since the world thinks Russia did it, we have to retaliate against Russia, even if we aren’t sure yet that they’re responsible.

    Who is ‘we’? You and Comrade Corbyn seem uncertain but I’m pretty sure it was Putin & it seems most people in the UK agree.

    As for sending SAS snipers to Ukraine and so on: have you people lost your fucking minds?

    Ukraine does not need British snipers, let alone SAS ones, they have plenty of their own. Certain types of gear would be nice though.

    mickc: Yes Perry….why don’t we just give a guarantee to the Ukraine? After all it worked for Poland….oh…err…no it didn’t did it?

    When did I suggest that? Serious, get a grip.

    No it actually destroyed the British Empire and ensured the UK became part of the US empire.

    Ah yes, the David Irving thesis, I wonder how completely you subscribe to that? Utter nonsense. The Empire no longer made economic sense and it was always an Empire driven by economics, or do your think Jardine & Matheson were on a mission to civilise? That was the delusional French, not the pragmatic British 😆

    The UK has no vital interest at risk in the Ukraine. Let’s just leave those dogs to fight between themselves.

    That might have been an arguable case a few weeks ago, but not after Putin demonstrates he is a clear and present danger with a act of war (and it was) on British soil. Destabilising Russia is now absolutely in Britain’s national interests, and there are many fun and creative ways short of war to do that.

  • Mr Ed

    Yes Perry….why don’t we just give a guarantee to the Ukraine? After all it worked for Poland….oh…err…no it didn’t did it?

    Sir, it may have escaped your notice, but the UK gave a guarantee to the Ukraine back in 1994, the Budapest Memorandum.

    The well-travelled and learned Mr Jennings of this parish gave a talk to Libertarian Home (it’s on YT) a few years ago on his travels in the former USSR, and he did say something about the war in the Ukraine which I understood as it turning out being useful for the current bunch in charge there as a way to, shall we say, ‘deprioritise’ issues such as accountability and corruption. A touch of not letting a crisis go to waste there perhaps?

  • Alisa

    Niall, to answer with regard to my own comment only: obviously Putin is the main suspect, far ahead of any others. However and as per bobby’s comment, one should never neglect keeping in mind other possibilities, however remote they may seem at that moment – and to my mind China would lead among those. So with that in mind and for the sheer fun of it:

    If the idea is to distract the US from its focus on China’s expansion, why not do the deed in the US?

    For the same reason(s) Putin is doing it in the UK and not the US?

    Like WWII Japan, China seems to know there is more to the east and south of them than there is in Siberia.

    Sure there are priorities, but with Jinping now in power for life, just give it time.

    But again and as Perry said, ducks walking and quacking and all that.

  • Sir, it may have escaped your notice, but the UK gave a guarantee to the Ukraine back in 1994, the Budapest Memorandum.

    I know, and it wasn’t a good idea then either, and it is not something *I* am recommending. I think the UK needs to destabilise Russia because Russia is a clear and present danger, and one way of doing that is to help raise the cost of Russian adventures in Ukraine, such as selling weapons.

  • mickc

    Perry
    I don’t know what the David Irving thesis is. And I entirely agree the British Empire was overdue to be dissolved; there is however a huge difference between voluntary and forced liquidation.

    As for destabilising Russia; are you serious? We were lucky during the collapse of the USSR that nukes did not go “astray” and at that time there was some goodwill between Russia and the West. Now there is none. God knows what we’ll get with a destabilised Russia….

    Incidentally, hasn’t Russia just raised the cost of US intervention in the Middle East? Dying empires, such as the USA are extremely dangerous..

  • God knows what we’ll get with a destabilised Russia….

    Yeah, next thing you know they’re be invading their neighbours and killing people with nerve gas in Britain! Oh hang on…

  • Julie near Chicago

    Alisa: Doggie! Doggie! *claps hands with delight*

    [Side note to comment inserted into the video: Indeed yes, this pet-lover will surely vote for Putin from now on.]

  • Matthew McConnagay

    Niall Kilmartin – agreed, Putin is the most likely culprit by far, but since we only have Theresa May’s word for it at this point, I don’t think we should regard things as proven beyond a reasonable doubt. (Not that they ever will be, but then, see my first comment.)

    Tim Newman, who occasionally comments round here, has written several posts about this on his own blog, all of which featured lively debate on the topic. Since Tim lived in Russia and knows more about it than I do, I’m very willing to consider his point that (a) Skripal likely had a lot more enemies than just Putin, and (b) Putin doesn’t have total control over his own government. Nor over his chemical weapons facilities, most likely. Plus, Putin had the chance to kill this gentleman when he arrested him, and he didn’t. I also think Skripal’s murder (as opposed to Litvinenko’s) hurts Putin’s spygames as much as it helps.

    There are lots of reasons that weigh against this being a Kremlin operation, and since it behooves us to keep an open mind anyway, we should consider the possibility of some other party being responsible. We shouldn’t just limit our list of suspects to those we can think of, either, since we don’t know half of what Mr. Skripal (or his daughter) got up to, and who they might have upset doing so.

    As for whoever else I can think of what might have done it:

    – I don’t regard China or the US as credible suspects;
    – I can see an interest in Germany and/or the EU (but I repeat myself) trying to scare Britain back into the fold, but I doubt they’d have the capability and I very much doubt they’d have the balls;
    – Assad/Iran (but I repeat myself) supposedly has nerve gas, and might have an interest in sowing dissension between his protector and the protectors of his enemies;
    – the aforementioned rogue/uncontrollable elements within Putin’s government and/or the Russian mafia (but I repeat myself).

    I also thought – and I freely admit that I don’t know how well this lines up with the physical evidence, but since I’m already speculating wildly here – that perhaps this wasn’t an assassination at all. Here’s the scenario:

    Let’s say Britain wants to get hold of this Russian nerve agent, perhaps just to see what the Russians have, perhaps to see if the Russians are supplying the Syrians. They have this former Russian spy who they can pay to betray his own country. What if some agent in Russia hands the nerve agent to the daughter, the daughter is supposed to hand it to Skripal, and Skripal to the (apparently nearby) British gov’t chemical weapons facility – only the cloak-and-daggers courier service isn’t the best way to transport this extremely dangerous and volatile substance, and the vial breaks or what-have-you, and everybody gets poisoned?

    Having made all these speculations, I must reiterate:

    1. Putin is by far the most likely culprit, and
    2. We should be retaliating against him one way or the other.

  • As for sending SAS snipers to Ukraine and so on: have you people lost your fucking minds? (Matthew McConnagay, March 17, 2018 at 1:51 am)

    Consider an alternative conversation.

    Kill an exchanged defector and his daughter with our latest nerve agent in the middle of an English country town? Vladimir, have you lost your fucking mind?

    If one question is sensible, then the other is ridiculous. And vice versa.

    (The strategic fundamentals that gave rise to “No land war in Asia” could certainly apply to dumping any regular UK units in the Ukraine next door to Russia’s large army but, to answer the literal question asked, there is nothing insane about some SAS guys or similar. As Perry points out, the Ukraine, despite Stalin’s efforts – aided by Hitler’s – is populous and has its own forces, and they inherit sniper skills from their days in the Soviet Union – maybe we could learn from them? So training, gear, whatever may be adequate and prudent. But if we want to annoy Putin, to send him a message, then just a little bit of personal involvement is worth considering.)

    Alisa, as regards

    For the same reason(s) Putin is doing it in the UK and not the US?

    I don’t think that could work for the hypothesis of Chinese guilt because for the Chinese it is a fake operation. They do not care which Russian defector is most annoying and/or has worked his way to the top of some list. They only care about some (I’m not too easily seeing what) political effect. Their sole reason is to look as if Putin did it. In that scenario, the method and target matter for making it look like Putin but the locale matters from the PoV of the political effect.

    That purely analytic point made, we are I think fairly well in agreement: Putin is well in the frame. We should not neglect further information obtainable. The Chinese need watching.

  • bobby b

    Niall Kilmartin
    March 17, 2018 at 3:50 pm

    “The idea that anyone in the US . . . might have done this has me rather baffled.”

    Then we’re even. The idea that Putin would send someone into the UK with a signature Russian weapon to kill someone he had in his own prisons for four years and who has been eminently reachable for eight years – for no gain that I can see – while running the real risk of more sanctions (which he can ill afford) and international scorn (of which he has enough already) has me rather baffled.

    I threw the idea of some USA deep state entity doing this not because I believe it to be true, but because it is just as likely an explanation as is “Putin is stupid.”

    I’m baffled that they found more of the same toxin at Skirpal’s daughter’s home. I’m baffled that Skirpal has professional and personal connections to Christopher Steele – he of the Trump dossier. I’m baffled that, while Litvinenko was a fugitive from Russia and was loudly talking about the apartment killings and other anti-Putin topics and so was a predictable target, Skripal was a current nonentity.

    I think we’re being played by . . . someone. I don’t have the information to guess by who, but the answer that everyone seems to be in love with strikes me as facile.

  • Matthew McConnagay

    Perry de Havilland

    You and Comrade Corbyn seem uncertain but I’m pretty sure it was Putin & it seems most people in the UK agree.

    Hence why I said we need to retaliate against Russia regardless. I’m sure I differ from Comrade Corbyn (thanks) in that regard. That doesn’t change the fact that you and most of Britain (and the world) are more certain than you should be.

    And let me reiterate (again), in case you didn’t see it: Putin is by far the most likely culprit.

    Ukraine does not need British snipers, let alone SAS ones, they have plenty of their own. Certain types of gear would be nice though.

    Aren’t the Ukrainians already using our gear? And the Syrian rebels, too? Perhaps our willingness to stick our beak in might explain why the Russians are nerve-gassing Salisbury, and we ought to think twice before we rush headlong into further conflict without considering the potential for blowback.

    What disturbs me is the cavalier attitude to starting World War 3 on the thin public evidence available about some foreign power’s use of chemical weapons. Does nobody remember anything these days? And why are libertarians of all people so cavalier about war?

    Destabilising Russia is now absolutely in Britain’s national interests, and there are many fun and creative ways short of war to do that.

    I’m glad you’re enjoying yourself fantasising about James Bonding the Russkis, but I doubt it will seem so much fun to those keeping their heads down in some trench in Hungary.

    And just to reiterate once more (since it’s so easy to be misunderstood): we absolutely should be retaliating against the Russians, regardless of if they did it (and they probably did it anyway). I’m just saying we should be more careful how we go about it.

  • Matthew McConnagay

    Niall Kilmartin

    Kill an exchanged defector and his daughter with our latest nerve agent in the middle of an English country town? Vladimir, have you lost your fucking mind?

    I hope I’m not failing to take your point, but it seems to me that this point – which I’ve actually made elsewhere, albeit not quite so well – is a point against Putin being involved, as well as a point, if not in favour of alternate theories, then a point against the obvious criticism of them: yes, it is absurd to think that such a stunt would be pulled by the US/China/alien replicons from beyond the moon/the EU (but I repeat myself), but just a week ago it was absurd to think that Russia would launch a chemical attack on Salisbury. And yet that has apparently happened.

    As for retaliating with the SAS in Ukraine – and I understand that was my (facetious) suggestion, not yours, but still – aren’t you worried about Spetznatz operations against British troops in (wherever the British troops are these days)? You think Putin can’t rustle up some Chechnyan terrorists to bring the jihad to the Little Satan?

    Putin has more political leeway to engage in dirty tricks than we do. I don’t know precisely what would be the best way to retaliate, but we might like to take into account his likely response when we do.

  • Matthew McConnagay

    bobby b

    …they found more of the same toxin at Skirpal’s daughter’s home.

    My “botched smuggling” idea is getting more plausible by the second!

  • mickc

    Perry,
    Its not their neighbours I’m worried about…it’s us. And no they won’t invade us, just destroy us. And no the USA won’t defend us.

    As for whether Putin was involved in the poisoning of Skripal, Simon Jenkins is absolutely right. The current non evidential hysteria is just that….hysteria.

    And I entirely fail to see how the UK has any vital interest in the Ukraine. As you rightly pointed out, the UK shouldn’t have been in the empire business when it became unprofitable. That being the case, there is no reason to be in the world policeman business; there is no profit, only the cost of blood and treasure.

    Of course, if you think “something should be done” feel free to go and fight….

  • bobby b

    “My “botched smuggling” idea is getting more plausible by the second!”

    Agree. Plus, there’s speculation out there, from a relative of the Skripals, that the mother of Skripal’s daughter’s boyfriend – who was a “highly placed Russian security official” – was angry that her son was about to marry a Russian traitor.

    Settling on Putin as the bad actor at this point strikes me as naive.

  • bobby b

    Oops. ” . . . was about to marry a Russian traitor . . .” above should read ” . . . was about to marry the daughter of a Russian traitor.”

  • Mr Ed

    booby b

    there’s speculation out there, from a relative of the Skripals, that the mother of Skripal’s daughter’s boyfriend – who was a “highly placed Russian security official” – was angry that her son was about to marry a Russian traitor.

    Settling on Putin as the bad actor at this point strikes me as naive.

    So, if I follow you, some woman security bureaucrat in Moscow who was upset about her son’s broad decided that she would mount an operation to kill the broad outside of Russia, by using a nerve agent in the territory of a NATO and Security Council nuclear power, without fearing that she might have gone a bit beyond her job description and regardless of the possible consequences for her should it all come to light.

    Sounds all a bit Rothbard at his worst. Amirite?

    And I note that it is not (at present) Russia case that this might have been them and it was a ‘rogue’ operation.

    So Putin isn’t saying this happened, Mrs May isn’t saying this happened, but someone on the internet said it, so that a line of enquiry worth pursuing?

  • Matthew McConnagay

    Mr Ed – if Putin has so little control over his agents, he’s hardly going to admit it, is he?

    Thinking about it, from Putin’s perspective, if rogue elements in his own government are responsible, it might be preferable for him to pretend it was him – sure, it ruins the relationship with Britain, etc, but at least he doesn’t look weak.

  • Mr Ed

    Mr Ed – if Putin has so little control over his agents, he’s hardly going to admit it, is he?

    Would you suggest that he would prefer to state (falsely) that he ordered an assassination attempt using nerve agents than ‘admit’ to losing control?

    Could he be that bright?

  • Does nobody remember anything these days? And why are libertarians of all people so cavalier about war?

    I think you will find libertarians tend to be pretty firm on the whole “doing unto others as they did unto you” thing, and if the state is going to take our tax money (not to mention preventing us from arming itself) they’d better fucking well try and protect us from foreign powers at the very least.

    I’m glad you’re enjoying yourself fantasising about James Bonding the Russkis

    Do unto others as they do unto you, or they will just keep doping it.

    but I doubt it will seem so much fun to those keeping their heads down in some trench in Hungary.

    Oh? Please expand on this notion.

  • bobby b

    “So Putin isn’t saying this happened, Mrs May isn’t saying this happened, but someone on the internet said it, so that a line of enquiry worth pursuing?”

    I guess once you settle on your preferred narrative, no other lines of enquiry are worth pursuing.

    I can keep coming up with fantastical explanations that are every bit as well-supported as “Putin did it.” My point is, you have exactly one data-point supporting your chosen explanation – that the substance was of Russian origin – and no more. And the fact that the same substance was then found in the daughter’s apartment is somewhat of a loose end in your story, no?

    I doubt us peons will ever know the true facts. We’ll all just buy into whichever story our preferred leader settles upon. Right now, “Putin did it” serves the most ends of our Western leaders, so that’s what we have. It’s jingoism at its worst.

  • That being the case, there is no reason to be in the world policeman business; there is no profit, only the cost of blood and treasure.

    Who is talking about being the world’s policeman? The whole point of increasing support for a power hostile to Russia is part of HMG being Britain’s policeman, because in case you didn’t notice, this guy was attacked with nerve gas in Britain. IN BRITAIN. If discouraging that with vigour is not worth a bit of blood and treasure then what what is the hell is the point of having a state at all?

    Of course, if you think “something should be done” feel free to go and fight….

    Yeah yeah, and when I get my share of the defence budget back in my bank account, I’ll consider pondering a one man war with the FSB 😆

  • Matthew McConnagay (March 17, 2018 at 7:22 pm)

    I hope I’m not failing to take your point

    No problem – with an issue like this, where there are several contrasting start-points for theories, we may all find ourselves iterating round to grasp various points. I will attempt to clarify my thinking.

    but it seems to me that this point – which I’ve actually made elsewhere, albeit not quite so well – is a point against Putin being involved

    My point is that whether Putin is ‘insane’ or not depends entirely on whether he suffers consequences that seriously outweigh the benefits (and/or should expect to do so).

    Assume, for the sake of argument, that Putin felt he needed to repeat the Litvinyenko message: as he did then, so now he orders a killing in a way that terrifies by having an insolently obvious signature and an implication that the method may blindside its target, defeating conventional precautions. If all he were to endure in return were an understaffed Russian embassy in the UK for a while, till passions cooled, he is evil but not at all crazy. Were he instead to see his plans for Syria seriously derailed through upped western hostility, for example, then the word ‘insane’ (in the colloquial sense) would have some content. (And, of course, likewise for reprisals we take; we should rationally assess their likely consequences.)

    On the rival way of viewing it – it’s insane for Putin to do something so obviously pointing at him, so it surely was not Putin, right? – this reasoning only works if, despite the Litvinyenko precedent, Putin believes killing people in the UK in ways that shout “Putin” is insanely dangerous for him.

  • I doubt us peons will ever know the true facts

    I think you overestimate the ability of states to keep secrets in the long run (its hard enough in the short run).

    there’s speculation out there, from a relative of the Skripals, that the mother of Skripal’s daughter’s boyfriend – who was a “highly placed Russian security official” – was angry that her son was about to marry a Russian traitor.

    Good grief. So a “highly placed Russian security official” who was “angry that her son was about to marry a Russian traitor” not just organised a hit, but rather than “run him over with a car” or “crump him with a tyre iron”, they said “Hey, lets kill this guy in a NATO country with NERVE GAS, because that seems a nice way to keep a personal vendetta private…”

    Yeah I’m totally sold on that scenario rather than “Putin (or at least ‘The Kremlin Establishment’) want to discourage people defecting/selling Russian secrets to west by making west seem like it is not a safe haven, because no one will actually take the official denials seriously.” 😆

  • Matthew McConnagay

    Mr Ed

    Would you suggest that he would prefer to state (falsely) that he ordered an assassination attempt using nerve agents than ‘admit’ to losing control?

    I thought that’s exactly what I had suggested. Although bear in mind he hasn’t actually stated any such thing, but his denials are singularly unconvincing, to the point that one suspects they are deliberately so.

    Let me put it this way:

    1. Who is more dangerous to Putin, Britain or his Russian rivals?
    2. In which scenario does he get to continue as president for longer?
    3. How many politicians exist in the world who would put the interests of their country above their own?

    Perry de Havilland

    Trenches in Hungary? Well, since Germany is nominally on our side in this dispute, it wouldn’t be trenches in western Europe, would it?

    …if the state is going to take our tax money… they’d better fucking well try and protect us from foreign powers at the very least.

    I agree that the state ought to protect the nation, but if this all goes tits up and we end up in a serious war with nuclear-armed Russia, I won’t consider myself very well protected.

    When I suggested people were forgetting the lessons of the past, I wasn’t just talking about the second Iraq war but the first world one. Austria-Hungary had a similarly cavalier attitude to war in 1914. A few years later, I imagine they felt quite differently. Those of them who were still alive, at any rate.

    (Actually, it’s not an inapt comparison. An empire well in decline, and in denial about that decline; the assumption that a more powerful friend will prevent anything from going too wrong. The only major difference is that they had considerably more evidence of their enemy’s guilt than we do.)

  • bobby b

    “Yeah I’m totally sold on that scenario . . . “

    Like I said – it’s fantastical. It’s unsupported. Just like the scenario you prefer. I think you make accusations against a Putin-ruled nuclear-capable country only after you have a few more evidentiary points in your pocket.

    Here’s another one: Skripal finally gets even with Putin when he gets hold of some easily-identified Novichok and offs himself on a public bench, thus setting Putin up as the “obvious” villain. What revenge! Once again, this has as much evidentiary support as does your choice.

  • Alisa

    Putin is not saying he did it, and he is not saying he did not – which serves him exactly right, whether he did it or not: on the one hand and as has been rightly pointed out by Bobby and others, the UK seems to have no proof that he did, and so (in his mind) would not dare to take any serious action against him; while on the other he appears to his many supporters at home as if he did do it, sticking a finger in the eye of the UK and the Russia-hating West in general.

    That purely analytic point made, we are I think fairly well in agreement: Putin is well in the frame. We should not neglect further information obtainable. The Chinese need watching.

    My purely analytic point was that if the Chinese/whoever-other-than-Putin wanted to make it look as if Putin did it, they would not do it in a country they know Putin would not do it if he was going to do it 🙂

    More seriously, I find Tim’s (and by extension Matthew’s) speculation the most plausible so far.

  • Alisa

    Although bear in mind he hasn’t actually stated any such thing, but his denials are singularly unconvincing, to the point that one suspects they are deliberately so.

    Let me put it this way:

    1. Who is more dangerous to Putin, Britain or his Russian rivals?
    2. In which scenario does he get to continue as president for longer?
    3. How many politicians exist in the world who would put the interests of their country above their own?

    Beat me to it.

  • I am very much with Perry de Havilland (London) (March 17, 2018 at 9:24 pm) on the serious improbabilities of the private vendetta theory. If we accept Russian origin of this crime then it immediately follows that this is Putin or it is someone who is OK with giving Putin a very powerful motive to find them and make them into an old-style KGB disciplinary example, with Putin’s task of finding them simplified by knowing it is someone with access to specialised nerve gases (as well as the targets). The vendetta idea, like the Czech story now going the rounds, smells like routine disinformation to me.

  • Matthew McConnagay

    Someone I forgot to put on the list of potential alternate culprits: the Chechnyans.

  • Here’s another one: Skripal finally gets even with Putin when he gets hold of some easily-identified Novichok and offs himself on a public bench, thus setting Putin up as the “obvious” villain. bobby b (March 17, 2018 at 9:51 pm)

    And he offs his daughter as well because …. ?

    Occam’s razor, anyone?

  • Mr Ed

    The ghost of Rothbard chuckles away next to Ho Chi Minh at the fireside as they discuss the contrarians who think that they are libertarians swallowing some more pig shit and spout it out.

    If it was a ‘non-Russian state’ actor responsible, there would be no reason to attack an obscure former Russian GRU agent and his daughter, and to have had the information required to have attacked them both would be indicative of a high degree of monitoring of both the UK and Russia, or an implausible amount of luck, for no obvious benefit and massive risk.

    Or perhaps a low-level Russian state agent got the OK to (i) obtain a nerve agent (ii) send it to England with a view to settling a private grudge and hoped to get away with it. After all, Putin would never admit to having employed a bitter prospective future mother-in-law lest it lead to a hashtag Twitter storm.

    A ‘false flag’ theory might have either the UK (with Theresa May’s permission) or an ally with the UK’s (and Theresa May’s) co-operation release a nerve agent in a pleasant and peaceful English city with a view to killing or seriously harming a ‘disposable’ Russian agent (and his daughter) with a view to stirring up problems for Mr Putin, just after our gas supplies became troublesomely low, but accidentally poisoning an English policeman into the bargain, all with a view to pinning the blame on Moscow.

    Who had the motive?
    Who had the means?
    Who had no explanation?

  • Mr Ed

    Someone I forgot to put on the list of potential alternate culprits: the Chechnyans.

    The Chechens who have access to all the best ex-Soviet chemical warfare facilities and who know where to find a Russian spy living quietly in an obscure Cathedral city when his daughter visits?

    They wouldn’t have dared. They would have crossed the Druids of Stonehenge on their home turf.

  • Matthew McConnagay

    Mr Ed

    Yes, those Chechens.

  • “… he would prefer to state (falsely) that he ordered an assassination attempt using nerve agents than ‘admit’ to losing control?” … his denials are singularly unconvincing, to the point that one suspects they are deliberately so. … Who is more dangerous to Putin, Britain or his Russian rivals? … (Matthew McConnagay March 17, 2018 at 9:35 pm)

    In the hope that it may assist discussion, I will summarise the deep-seated confusions there seem (to me) to be in this reasoning.

    Obviously, Putin’s deliberately unconvincing denials are not merely consistent with his having done it but exactly what we should expect in that case. There is no point in assassinating someone ‘pour encourager les autres’ if you then deny it so convincingly that les autres decide it was not you after all and they need not therefore fear you (more than they did) and/or if you act so alarmed by the world’s response that les autres think you will not dare do it again for some time.

    If, instead, Putin knows that he did not do it and knows (or thinks he knows) that a rogue element in his state did, then he knows he has a specific group of ruthless and dangerous internal enemies. He knows that this group – who know they are the ones who did it – are going to be utterly unintimidated by him attempting to get the credit in public; they not only know he is lying, they want hm to get the credit – that is the whole point of their plan. The one thing these enemies cannot do is tell disaffected Russians in general that Putin is innocent. They cannot simultaneously bring external enemies to weaken him by framing him for a crime and also weaken him internally by showing that his subordinates are no longer dominated by him as evidenced by they, not he, having actually committed the crime. Therefore in this scenario Putin has no similar motive to make his denials unconvincing. It is basic strategy for him to make them as convincing as he can, while secretly tracking down and exterminating this rogue group.

    Incidentally, I note the somewhat indirect and long-term nature of this part of the rogue group’s plan to weaken Putin seems to conflict with the immediate danger its method puts them in by alerting him to their existence. While they may hope for more damage to Putin from the UK and the west than has yet been done, they either have a plan for his replacement soon, to which this merely provides some PR validation, or they should be dreading how long western pressure will take to build up while Putin, knowing it was a Russian deed but not his, will search for them.

    Hopefully this shows why I think the suggestion fallacious that Putin, if he knew he had not done it, would rationally think it in his interest to pretend he had.

  • Matthew McConnagay

    Niall Kilmartin

    I find all your logic sound, but I didn’t mean to suggest that Putin’s domestic rivals were the same people who committed the attack. I agree that any Russian entity attempting to perform such an action in order to (a) weaken Putin and (b) strengthen themselves would instead be (a) strengthening Putin and (b) putting a target on their own backs.

    Rather, I meant that, if the attack were performed with Russian materials and/or with the connivance or participation of Russian actors for some other reason, but not with Putin’s authorisation or knowledge, it would make Putin look weak. This weakness would then provide fodder for Putin’s rivals, internal enemies, etc, of which I’m sure there are many, and all of whom are probably bigger threats to Putin personally than this conflict. Hence, better for him not to look weak.

  • Wolfred

    I keep hearing about the wall-to-wall CCTV coverage in the UK. So my question is: where are the piccies of that nasty Ruskie doing the deed ???

  • bobby b

    Mr Ed
    March 17, 2018 at 10:16 pm

    “The ghost of Rothbard chuckles away next to Ho Chi Minh at the fireside as they discuss the contrarians who think that they are libertarians swallowing some more pig shit and spout it out.”

    And Happy Sunday to you, too.

  • Mr Ed

    Wolfred

    Re CCTV.

    There are at least three theories that I have seen in the media:

    1. The substance was smeared on his car door handles. Only his or his neighbours’ CCTV would be likely to help.

    2. A passer-by sprayed him and daughter, I’ve read that the police have over 100 people to eliminate (as they say) from their enquiries. This would be where CCTV eould most likely come into it

    3. The daughter was the vector, having brought the substance with her when she visited him from Russia, and something ‘exploded’ delivering the agent to them both, presumably a present and presumably tampered with or exchanged by someone with very good information and connections (and orders), rather than the daughter being the principal.

    and the police are highly unlikely to release any evidence that they might have lest it tip off someone in a position to flee the UK, or have an accident. There may be other possbilities, an early one was food tampering at the restaurant, but that sounds implausible.

  • I keep hearing about the wall-to-wall CCTV coverage in the UK. So my question is: where are the piccies of that nasty Ruskie doing the deed ??? (Wolfred (March 18, 2018 at 12:29 am)

    As the attack happened in a reasonably sizeable town, that is a sensible question, about which we can only speculate.

    1) Footage from all over Salisbury is being patiently examined; those who do so are not sharing their results with us so as not to share them with the Russians?

    2) Russian agents are trained to strike when the target is in an uncovered area, and to look unidentifiable as they approach and leave said area?

    3) There is of course speculation that his daughter’s visit from Russia was not wholly coincidental to the attack – that the nerve gas was in some item planted on her and triggered at a distance by an agent who saw the daughter was close enough to her father and others were distant enough. (And, as is shown in this thread as one place among many, there are also loads of other speculations!) This theory would increase the difficulty of identifying the triggering agent. A science fiction version – which I do not think over-likely – would see the triggering agent tap into Salisbury’s CCTV cameras and so monitor the father-daughter distance remotely – and not appear on-camera .

  • Patrick Crozier

    “So my question is: where are the piccies of that nasty Ruskie doing the deed ???”

    The police theory is that the nerve agent was placed in an item of Yulia Skripal’s luggage before she left Moscow.

  • Paul Marks

    This is one of a whole series of attacks on opponents of Mr Putin in the United Kingdom – including several murders.

    People who side with Mr Putin are in error – horrible error.

    “But Paul the West is worm eaten by the Frankfurt School of Marxism – it is a dying civilisation”.

    I do not deny it – but Mr Putin offers no real alternative, and neither do the pitiless despots in Peking.

    Learn to live, and to die, without hope for the present. Keep fighting to the bitter end – if bitter it must be. Hope will arise again, perhaps long after your death. Your efforts will play a part (great or small) in keeping the memory of liberty alive in the Long Night.

  • Paul Marks

    What should we do in relation to the Putin regime?

    Break off contact.

    The much mocked British Defence Secretary was correct – we should tell them to “shut up and go away”.

    And if that means they close the British Embassy in Moscow and stop the BBC broadcasting to Russia…..

    So what?

  • NickM

    From wikipedia:

    Raid Over Moscow (Raid in some countries and on reissue) is a computer game by Access Software published in Europe by U.S. Gold for the Commodore 64 in 1984[1] and other microcomputers in 1985-1986.

    Released during the Cold War era, Raid Over Moscow is an action game in which the player (an American space pilot) has to stop three Soviet nuclear attacks on North America, then fight his way into and destroy a nuclear facility located in Moscow’s Kremlin. According to the game’s storyline, the United States is unable to respond to the attack directly due to the dismantlement of its nuclear arsenal.[2]

    The game is famous in Finland due to the political effect of its content. A leftist member of the Finnish parliament went as far as to make a parliamentary question about whether it was acceptable to sell the game that might cause vexation in a neighboring country Soviet Union with which relations were carefully managed.[3][4] The resulting debate and publicity made the game a top seller in the country.[5]

    Look it up. Look up the tagline. I post this because it sort of ties in with the games thread here. I recall there was Hell on over the game at the time.

    Anyone who has an old cassette of it fancy sending it Vladimir Putin, Kremlin, Russia.

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